So, you're about to make dinner. You've got your apron tied on. You've got all the ingredients you need in your fridge. You've even printed out the recipe. You should be good to go, right?
Not so fast. Before you start slicing and sizzling, there are a few more steps you should take to set yourself up for success, says chef Calvin Eng, owner of Bonnie's in Brooklyn, New York. Eng, who has been cooking since he was 5 years old and opened his own restaurant at age 27, has a couple tricks up his chef's coat sleeve. On TODAY Feb. 21, he shared the five things he would never do when cooking at home.
1. Start cooking with a filled dishwasher
There's nothing worse than making a mess in the kitchen, hosting a whole dinner party and then coming to the realization your dishwasher is already full and needs to be emptied before you can put all of the other dirty dishes away.
"I always love to clean as I go. So the first thing I do before I start prepping or cooking is ensure my dishwasher is clean and ready to go, so that way, when I'm working, I can work directly into the dishwasher," he said. "I load it up (with) dirty pots, pans, plates, utentsils, you name it, and then, when I'm done cooking, my dishes are also done."
2. Let my knives go dull
It’s more dangerous to chop with a dull knife than a sharp knife. Yes, really.
Why? "Because (a dull knife) requires much more force to slice and dice," explained Eng. "And that's how knives slip, and that's how accidents happen. You want the knife to do the work."
For the average home cook, it's best to sharpen your knife once a month.
3. Start cooking without a garbage station
Stop going back and forth to the trash with your scraps. Save time and energy by using a garbage bowl, which will reduce your trash trips to one.
"I always like to have a little garbage bowl by my work station, so that way, I can peel right into it, I have scraps going right into it, because you don't want to be bending over constantly into the trash can — it's bad for your back and you don't want to risk dropping what you're working on into the trash," he said. "So it's always nice to just be able to work right on the counter."
4. Forget to steady a cutting board
Secure your cutting board to save yourself a finger. You don't want it moving as you chop through your vegetables, increasing the risk of injury.
"This is just as dangerous as a dull knife," said Eng. "You don't want your cutting board slipping and sliding all over the counter, so you want to stabilize and secure that, and you do that by just putting a damp paper towel right beneath the cutting board, and that'll help secure it from sliding around while you're working."
And if you’re using the board to slice anything juicy — think: cooked meats or fruits — put the board in a sheet pan to catch any juice. That way, everything is contained in one area and won’t create a mess on your counter.
5. Put anything in the freezer without labeling
If you put something in the freezer without labeling it, there's a good chance it will be lost in the frosty abyss forever.
"I always label and date everything because I live by 'FIFO,' which is 'first in, first out.' And by doing that, you know exactly what you have in the freezer, in the fridge, at all times, and nothing goes bad because you're able to use the oldest product first," he said.
"Once it's frozen, oftentimes you can't even tell what it is anymore," he added, so labeling is also important for that reason.